90% a good movie.
This is one of those tragic films that seems to have all the elements of being a great film but somehow manages to just miss the mark. It has funny elements for sure, and the cast is stunning, but the sum of the parts of this film just felt like less than the individual values of them.
I saw it last night and have been trying to put my thumb on what the issue really is. It could be that the director, Don Scardino, really only has TV credits to his name. He directed a bunch of episodes of 30 Rock, and that’s kind of what this film felt like; a three part episode of 30 Rock (30 Rock image courtesy of the TV Show T Shirts). Clever lines, funny characters, and running jokes that are all ha ha funny but not bust your gut funny. Some of the elements border on genius, but most of it is that special kind of comedy that graces the pages of the New Yorker magazine where you are more or less obligated to admit that the joke is intellectually funny but doesn’t actually do anything to tickle your funny bone.
I will say the cast and acting was impressive as all hell. Everything you have ever loved about Steve Carrell, Steve Buscemi, and Jim Carrey is displayed in force here, and the best scenes are the interactions between the three. The rest of the supporting cast also knocked it out of the park. All around an A+ for the performers.
The story is of Vegas magicians Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell-the Office, Crazy, Stupid Love, the 40 Year Old Virgin) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi-Fargo, Resevoir Dogs, the Big Lebowski) as they get tired of their act and each other. They start off as best friends in grade school but by the end are treating it like a mediocre job they don’t want to do. Meanwhile street musician Steve Grey (Jim Carrey-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the Truman Show, Dumb and Dumber) is edging out their act by doing Chris Angel style stunts such as holding his urine for 12 days. Burt and Anton have a falling out as they try to do something as difficult and go their separate ways. Burt more or less fails out of show business and end up entertaining retirees at an old age home.
There he meets his youth idol Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin-Argo, Little Miss Sunshine, Edward Scissorhands) who helps re-ignite his old passion for magic. He goes back to the basics and puts together an act with Anton and his former assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde-Tron:Legacy, In Time, the Change Up. Weird. I wouldn’t have thought I did three full reviews for her movies. Too bad they all kind of sucked since I kind of like her) to go head to head with nemesis Grey. Magic happens, but nothing that would surprise you.
The stars. Overall excellent cast and acting. If you are a fan of any of the actors in this film you will see them displayed in their best light. Three stars. There were parts that were really funny, especially the scenes between Carrell and Buscemi. One star. I don’t usually go in for this sort of thing but I have to give the makeup people special props. They managed to make all the characters look significantly different from what you are used to seeing, and the work they did with Alan Arkin was brilliant. One star. The scene shot for the beginning of the credits was funnier than the entirety of the film. Don’t rush to leave your seat. One star. Generally a fun movie all around. One star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes. The film story was predictable, and generally borrowed heavily (including the main character) from any Will Ferrel you want to name except Stranger than Fiction. One black hole. A lot of the humor didn’t really strike a chord with the audience (except for at the end). It was like hearing a joke you didn’t get and then having the joker explain it to you. Eventually you throw a courtesy laugh to get him to shut up but the moment has passed. One black hole. The romance sub plot between Carrell and Wilde was really tacked on and had no meaning or relevance. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of four stars. Yes, I enjoyed it and believe you will as well. However, a year from now I sincerely doubt anyone not cursed with my stupid incredible memory for bad movie plots will really remember this film. It will just pass by and five years from now when your girlfriend picks it out as something to watch you will remember having seen it after the first 10 minutes. Date movie? Sure, no harm here. It is cute and funny with very little to offend her. Mostly harmless. Bathroom break? The scene where Carrell and Wilde start making out after planning their big number is pretty worthless. There isn’t a scene in this film that missing it will damage your understanding, so feel free to go whenever.
Thanks for reading. I’ll try to see something tomorrow night after a scheduled round of Warhammer ETC practice (if you know what that is cool. If you don’t explaining will serve no purpose). Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Post comments on this review or the film here, and if you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at email@example.com.